It’s a tale of creative vision and the good ol’ American Dream- best friends and San Diego transplants Lauren Letizio and Emma Lezak left their hometown of Wooster, Ohio after high school to pursue their dream of starting an accessory line. Fast forward to August 2011 and hello, Leoluca Handbags, an edgy yet feminine line of locally made handbags for women of all ages. My three favorites: the Frances in Black, Madrid in Robins Egg Blue & Winter (see below). Get to know these two young, stylish and savvy designers who recently just launched their Spring/Summer 2012 line.
After graduation from high school in Ohio, what brought you two to San Diego?
Style wise, Wooster, Ohio is a completely different than California. We always knew that we belonged somewhere that would offer more opportunities for us to pursue our dreams. It was a great place to grow up, but for people like us who have so much creativity and such an interest in the fashion world, we knew we needed to move to California. San Diego seemed like a great fit because it is close enough to LA but at the same time has a small town atmosphere where we can feel at home.
How did you get into the handbag industry?
We have always had a strong passion for accessories. We really feel that the right accessory can take your outfit to the next level! Accessories allow an individual to express themselves and stand out from the crowd, so we wanted to design something that would allow women to spice up their personal style! The jewelry market seemed oversaturated at the time, and we had both always had trouble finding the perfect handbag, so we designed something that we knew we would love and could use.
Where does the name Leoluca come from?
When coming up with a name we wanted to take something from both of our backgrounds and something that had a true meaning. Because we both have European roots we went with Italy and found the perfect name, Leoluca, which is an Italian Saint, and a 1950’s Italian Mobster. We liked the fact that this name is the name of two opposite types of people because that represents our personal style very well. When getting dressed we always like to combine different and opposite elements to create the perfect outfit, and we do the same when designing our bags.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to start their own fashion company?
Starting a company is not going to be easy but if it is something you want to do, you have to just do it. There is no step by step list of instructions to follow and it takes a lot of researching and figuring things out on your own. You will make mistakes, but you will learn from them. There will be many bumps along the way, but what we have learned is you have to keep working through these bumps and keep a positive outlook.
Our biggest challenge so far has been finding the right manufacturer to work with. It is important for us to stay domestic, but we also wanted to work with a company who produces quality work. Through trial and error we were able to locate an amazing manufacturer to work with in the US. Because of this, our vision and designs are able to be executed exactly how we imagine.
Do you have any all-time favorite pieces from the Leoluca collections?
From our first collection, the "Frances" bag is our favorite. This is large enough to fit just about everything, and the soft leopard lining makes a bold statement.
From our current collection, the "Madrid" bag in Metallic Hair-on-Hide. This has been a huge hit! People love the combination of metallic gold with the hair on hide, plus it’s extremely unique!
What’s your most valuable style tip?
Express your personal style without worrying about what others think. It’s better to be you than be boring!
Who are your style inspirations?
Lately we are in love with Rihanna’s edgy yet girly style! Also, we will always love Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen! Nicole Richie, and Rumi Neely of Fashiontoast also have great personal style.
Any trend predictions for handbags in 2012?
For Summer, it’s going to be all about small bags and bright colors! Something that will add a little pizazz to your outfit!
For Fall it’s going back to basics. Bold hues and color blocking will still be apparent. Simplicity in design will be huge, you won’t see as many logos and the attention will be more to the style and detail of the bag.